(Cuba, celebrating last Thursday’s win over Puerto Rico)
For all of the column inches used to describe Team USA’s plight after a disappointing showing in the World Baseball Classic, today’s result is a bigger story.
That what is essentially Cuba’s reserve team managed to advance to the final four, let alone defeat a Dominican club including stars such as Albert Puljols, David Ortiz, El Barto, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre, etc., is remarkable enough. But the manner in which they’ve gotten it done — with solid pitching and station-to-station offense, taking advantage of the opposition’s mistakes (particularly today), is in start contrast to the tournament’s favorites, waiting for 3 run homers that rarely came.
ESPN’s Dave Campbell stressed that Cuba, 22-5 in international play coming into today, has a national team in which the players are very familiar with each other. While that might be very true, the team that is on the brink of winning the inaugural WBC trophy is not the same as Cuba’s gold medalists, and was selcted with the threat of defections in mind.
I do look forward to Dan Le Batard penning for the third time, a column in which he says “I don’t want to play baseball with Cuba.” That’s ok, Dan, no one invited you. Perhaps all existing notions about baseball’s global balance of power oughta be re-examined. Had the USA and Dominican Republic each run the table and ended up in Monday’s final. few would’ve talked about the WBC starting too early in the calendar year, or the competitive advantage of national clubs no one has bothered to scout.
Goliath has gotten his ass kicked a couple of times in this competition, fair and square. Much as we all enjoy watching top seeds get knocked off in college hoops, I’ll still submit the WBC’s brand of March madness has been every bit as contagious.